Merced names acting city attorney

Merced City Council unanimously approved a contract with a law firm that will temporarily oversee the city attorney’s office as the city looks for a permanent employee.

Jolie Houston of Berliner Cohen, which has offices in Merced and San Jose, was named acting city attorney on Monday. An attorney with Berliner Cohen since 1998, according to her online profile, Houston practices land use and public law with an emphasis on municipal law.

Houston serves as the city attorney for Los Altos and as the assistant city attorney for Gilroy, according to a news release. Members of the Merced office of Berliner Cohen, Jeffrey Kaufman and Kimberly Flores, also will assist the city.

Born in Sacramento, Houston earned her law degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law, according to her profile. Merced Chief Deputy City Attorney Kelly Fincher was serving as the interim city attorney.

Merced has been without a city attorney since mid-May, when the City Council terminated its contract with Jennifer McGrath after two months. The previous city attorney, Randolph Hom, left in December for a better-paying job after nine months.

The contract with Berliner Cohen is for $29,000 a month for 100 hours of service. Filling the permanent city attorney position is expected to take four to six months, according to a news release.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller